Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fifteen years later - The song remains the same (or at least similar)

I'm having a weird feeling of deja vu at the moment thinking back to events exactly fifteen years ago in the autumn of 2000 when I first started writing this blog. Can it be a coincidence that pretty much fifteen years to the day of the start of the Oslo War/Second Intifada a new Palestinian terror campaign has begun?

Back in autumn 2000 all hell was breaking loose, apparently random attacks on Israeli Jews by our Arab neighbours, riots in Arab Israeli neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, Jaffa and parts of the Galilee, some so severe that their Jewish neighbours were effectively under siege, cut off from the rest of the country by attacks on their roads. All this aside from violent confrontations in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. 

Israelis were stunned by the ferocity of it all, the hatred from people they had worked with, shopped with, ridden the buses with. Suddenly then, as now, you found yourself looking at each Arab you met in a different light. 

Was the nice hijabi woman next to you on the bus going to blow you all to kingdom come or or coo over your baby? If you stopped by a local Arab village to eat some of their excellent hummous or to buy some value furnishings would you get lynched? Could you trust the Arab sales clerk you worked side by side with in a local clothing store or might he or she suddenly knife you in the back? How safe was your Arab dentist or the Arab electrician doing repairs at your kids' school? 

How does society continue to function under such pressure? How do people manage to continue working together when one side is terrified of being murdered by their colleagues, their neighbours? 

Somehow Israel made it through that one, resisted the Palestinian terror war and despite all the pain and suffering, people started to trust each other again. Not as completely as before, few Israeli Jews resumed visiting or shopping in Palestinian areas, but little by little Jews began visiting Israeli Arab communities again, the tension subsided, coexistence remained a fixture of Israeli society.

The daily terror onslaught is back again now, in a slightly different format, less severe riots, many more stabbings and car rammings, but still assaults with the same dizzying frequency, Arab attack on Jews in towns and on roads across Israel, many concentrated in and around the Israel capital, Jerusalem. Parents have been killed in front of their children, and Israelis young and old have been wounded in grisly attacks. 

I wasn't a mother back in 2000, I am now, and it is a thousand times harder to negotiate this frightening uncertainty when you have to worry about your kids' safety as well as your own. Social media is abuzz with anxious parents trying to figure out how to carry on their lives without being reckless. 

In a country where kids are usually independent from a young age, walking to friends houses or to school alone, parents are suddenly insisting on driving them, even if its just around the block. Other parents are accompanying their kids on the buses, just in case. Youth groups have changed their outdoor meetings to enclosed spaces protected by armed guards. Kids aren't being allowed to hang out at the mall or in the park, certainly not without watchful parents armed with pepper spray. 

The latest wave of attacks on Israelis are sudden and seemingly random, Arabs who seem like ordinary people, a repairman, a law student, a graduate of Israel's prestigious Technion university, even a 13 year-old schoolboy, suddenly knifing Jews or ramming them with their cars. These aren't last summer's rocket attacks where we at least had a minute or so warning and sirens telling us to dash for cover, all the warning you get is someone lunging at you with a knife or charging their car at you. 

I hate the way I suddenly have to think twice about where the kids are likely to meet Arabs in our small town. Should I have them avoid the mall with its many Arab employees and shoppers? What about the park tended by an Arab gardening crew? The Arab doctors and nurses at a nearby urgent care clinic? Do I have to be nervous about the Arab construction company doing renovations in the building nextdoor? What about Arab bus drivers potentially ramming people walking in the streets? What about all our decent, law abiding Arab neighbours caught in the middle of this madness?

My heartbreaks from the horror of having to live this way, any of us, all of us. 

I don't know what the answer is, I don't know when it will end, if it will escalate, if someone somewhere will manage to calm the situation - it certainly doesn't seem as if the Palestinian leadership is that interested in doing so. 

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